Friday, October 10, 2014

Baptism Lessons a Preacher Learns - Part THREE

Monday, October 13, 2014
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
The combination of baptismal pools and electrical voltage may indeed have played a part in my becoming a Methodist who sprinkles; the thought of standing in water surrounded by electrical things still makes me shudder!

I had the privilege of baptizing our youngest, Carrie, in the mid-80’s.  All her little friends from church were “up-close-and- personal” for the event.  But it was the back-lit cross on the wall behind us that nearly claimed the day. 
A volunteer had made the cross and attached a fluorescent light to its back side.  Then our volunteer (sans electrical contractor’s license) hung it in the baptistery…he hung it badly. 

In order to make sure the cross could be taken down easily for cleaning he had put just a single screw at the top of the cross and drilled a hole in the wall behind to dangle it on the wall (somewhat vertically-straight).  And come-down-easily it could!

We baptized often in that church; and almost every time I managed to brush against the cross, either entering, leaving, or in the act of baptizing.  The cross on a screw was like a pendulum on a clock.  Brush it to the left and it swung easily, while the light made all kinds of neat shadows and light strobes on the baptistery walls.

I always imagined that if that cross plunged into the water and electrocuted me the Gainesville Sun’s article headline would read,
Electrifying Baptism Held at Parker Road Baptist Church;
Preacher Lit Up for Jesus
Now, if the lighted cross wasn’t bad enough, asking the preacher to wear a lapel microphone with a wire plugged into who knows how many millions of watts, volts and other unknown disasters….well, that one grabbed center stage too.

In that tiny baptistery, water displacement dynamics were strange.  The new Christian, Dennis, who came into the pool that day, was 6’3” and weighed about 320; that was before you added-in the wet robe.  But even a big guy like that had to have a push from the preacher to get all the way under the water. 

Pushing Dennis down was easy; getting him, and the 60-ton wet robe he was wearing, back on his feet were not!  I had to swing way to the left to get my leg underneath to support the new saint; while I swayed, the cross swung.  As I moved upward to lift the brother, the cross released and swung true to its nature…back and forth, back and forth!  But the hole in the wall held the cross; tragedy #1 averted!

The microphone wasn’t so cooperative.  As my new church member reached upward to grab anything he could to help me lift him, he chose my lapel.  As his grasp began to strangle me, I reached out for anything to keep me from joining him under the water.  Somehow the lapel microphone was sprung loose from the clip holding it to my robe…it flew up in the air, pirouetted and did an Olympic 7.8 entry into the water.

Collectively the congregation gasped at an electric wire hitting the open water with a new convert and a mortified, helpless parson.  You could have heard a pin drop for 10 miles.  And the only thing I remember thinking at that moment was Debbie Boone’s song chorusing through my head …and you…you light up my life……

Postscript:  Even if the wires sizzled…it was low voltage…it simply would have added a little “zip” to our step; no harm, no foul.
Incidents like that are legion in ministry.  A minister’s lesson learned is that we should do whatever we can to make sure events go smoothly – not because we’re professional, but because the grace of our Lord is bigger news than electrical mis-engineering.

For You, Today

Did something go wrong at your baptism? 

Forget that – remember what went right; Jesus was there…and he’s still with you.  

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